Posted: October 3rd, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 135 Comments »
You know I’m a big fan of history, so let’s review some.
2012 – PIT 16, PHI 14
2008 – PHI 15, PIT 6
2004 – PIT 27, PHI 3
2000 – PHI 26, PIT 23 in OT
1997 – PHI 23, PIT 20
1994 – PIT 14, PHI 3
1991 – PHI 23, PIT 14
Most games are close. But one thing is always true…no one scores a lot of points. These games feature more defense than offense. While this isn’t a vintage Steelers defense (only had one sack in 3 games), they have plenty of talented players and had only given up 16 points in each of the first 2 games.
So there was no way an Eagles rookie QB was going to light up the Steelers. Right?
Don’t tell Carson Wentz what he can or can’t do. He’s not interested in history, trends or projections. Wentz didn’t try to battle the ghosts of Rod Woodson, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown, Joey Porter or Troy Polamalu. Wentz kept it simple and just played football. Find the open receiver and get him the ball. Wentz led the Eagles to 34 points in 3 quarters. They called off the dogs in the final quarter.
I was nervous going into the game. I saw this as a big test for the Eagles. They got up 3-0 and that was cool. You always feel good when the offense produces points on the opening possession. That tells you the gameplan is probably good and the players are focused. Then the Eagles went up 10-0. That almost made me more nervous than before the game. Was this somehow going to tick off the Steelers, who would then really come alive? When Sproles scored on the big play to put the Eagles up 20-3, I finally relaxed a little bit and realized just how well the Eagles were playing.
Wentz and his teammates were ready for the big game. They didn’t show any nerves. The Eagles just went out there and performed at a high level, with scoring drives on 6 of the first 7 possessions. Doing that in any game is impressive. Doing it against the Steelers, in what felt like a big game, that was special. You have to be strong mentally, physically and emotionally to move up and down the field like that. We’ve all seen a team get off to a hot start, only to lose focus and get sloppy. The Eagles kept their foot on the gas pedal until the game was completely out of reach.
Doug Pederson and the offensive staff deserve a lot of credit for the gameplan. They were creative in this one. They used a lot of different formations and player combinations. They used some 3 WRs and then some 3 TEs and then even went with a shotgun with 2 RBs look. There were lots of screens, and they went to a variety of players. The Steelers defense always seemed off balance.
I think the Eagles lack of elite weapons helps them at times. Who do you focus on? Who do take away? Wentz threw for 301 yards, but only targeted his top receiver (Jordan Matthews) 3 times. Ryan Mathews is the Eagles top runner, but was either banged up or the coaches wanted to rest him so they fed the ball to his backups, who combined for 248 total yards and 3 TDs.
The Eagles offense is clicking right now because Pederson is calling the right plays at the right time and his players are executing them well. The Eagles don’t have elite skills players, but if a talented QB has time to throw, he’s going to find someone open and be able to get them the ball. That’s happening for the Eagles. The biggies up front are controlling the line of scrimmage and the skill players are making plays.
Carson Wentz was 23-31-301 with 2 TDs and no picks. He wasn’t sacked at all and didn’t get hit that much. The OL gave him a clean pocket and Wentz took advantage of it. I loved the composure he played with. Wentz didn’t show any nerves and mostly played a smart game. He didn’t make any throws that were flat-out dumb. He ran once for 10 yards and got out of bounds. Wentz has been getting endlessly lectured on being smarter about hits and it seems that message finally hit home. Wentz was accurate with his passes and spread the ball around. Once again, he just didn’t look like a rookie QB. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: October 2nd, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 21 Comments »
No Eagles football today. Bye weeks are relaxing, but the Eagles have been so much fun this year that I really wanted to see them in action. Only a week away.
Reuben Frank wrote one of his 25 Random Points pieces and said something simple, but still very important.
Pederson has been unreal. He’s the only coach in NFL history to go 3-0 in his first year with a rookie quarterback and win all three games by at least 15 points.
It really is mind-blowing to see Pederson doing such a great job. The Eagles were the only team that had interest in him. Some people preferred Sean McDermott or Ben McAdoo. I wanted Adam Gase. There was good support for Hue Jackson. No one was all that enthused by the pursuit of Pederson. So far, he has done a great job, both in terms of restoring the right atmosphere in the building and winning games on the field.
Roob points out that things haven’t been easy.
What Pederson has done on the field is almost as remarkable as what he’s done off the field, navigating the franchise through some rough waters — Sam Bradford’s holdout and trade a week before the opener, a third-string quarterback with very little training camp being promoted into the starting lineup, two players getting into legal trouble just before training camp, Lane Johnson’s likely suspension, player pregame protests and so on. Pederson has handled it all beautifully and he’s won over the locker room in the process — something that is very tough for a rookie head coach to do. Especially one with so little experience.
Pederson really is pushing all the right buttons.
The challenge for him now is getting the team to stay focused and handle success. John Madden always said the time to be toughest on your team is when they’re winning. Everyone around the players will praise them and stroke those egos. It is up to the coaching staff to be demanding and let them know they have to keep getting better. Complacency is a dangerous thing.
There is a lot of truth in this.
CLE got out to a big lead against the Ravens and almost won. The Browns had a lead on the Skins in the 2nd half today and some turnovers cost them the game.
CHI beat the Lions.
PIT is destroying the Chiefs. It is 36-0 right now. Amazing what a difference a week makes, huh?
The bottom line is that the Eagles beat these teams soundly and these teams have looked much better when playing other opponents. That should tell you this isn’t luck or a fluke. The Eagles are legitimately good.
Les Bowen spoke to Andy Reid for his thoughts on the Eagles and Carson Wentz.
If there was anybody in the entire wild and woolly NFL who might be willing to preach caution about the 3-0 Eagles and their wheels-on-fire Wentz Wagon, you’d think it would be Mr. Caution himself, the ever-understated Andy Reid.
So it was a bit of an eye-opener Sunday morning to get a call back from Reid, as he awaited his Kansas City Chiefs’ Sunday Night Football encounter with the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and hear him advocate for fans getting just as excited as they want to be about the Eagles and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who are scheduled to come back from their bye week with a Monday practice.
“I think they have a right to be,” Reid said, when told that fans here were getting pretty fired up, in their own unique, fervent way. “This is a young kid. He’s fundamentally sound. Is there going to be a bad day somewhere? Yeah, but that’s with every player, that’s how it works. But I can’t tell you the future isn’t bright when you have a good young quarterback. He’ll do nothing but get better. He’s got a great (QB) room he’s in, between (backup Chase Daniel, formerly of the Chiefs) and the coaching staff. That’s a place to learn, and he’s a guy that wants to do that. I think that’s a healthy situation for him. It looks like he spends the time to learn.”
Good stuff from Les and Big Red. Go read the whole piece. More thoughts on the team and Doug Pederson.
Some people think Big Red should hold a grudge with the Eagles because they fired him, but that’s just not the case. He loved his time in Philly and has plenty of friends in the organization.
I’m pretty sure that Chip Kelly feels differently.
Speaking of Kelly…Pederson already has 3 wins on the season. Feels like that might be all Chip and his Niners get for the year. That team has some serious talent deficiencies and looks like stud LB NaVorro Bowman might be out for the year. Yikes.
To be fair though, the officials in today’s game did give Dallas help on some key plays. The Niners aren’t going to win games when key calls are going against them. They just don’t have the players to pull that off.
Posted: October 1st, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 400 Comments »
Winning gets you noticed. Winning in dominant fashion and with a rookie QB gets you a lot of attention. Most of it is going to be good, but there are always those doubters, so sure they see flaws instead of strengths.
Carson Wentz is a hot button topic right now. Bart Scott called him fool’s gold prior to the Steelers game. Scott then had to change his mind. I don’t find Scott to be a compelling analyst so his opinion, either way, doesn’t mean anything to me. I have no issues with someone who has some doubts in regard to Wentz. He is only a rookie and we’re just 3 games into his career. Wentz could turn out to be the next Bobby Hoying or the next Tom Brady. We don’t know what the future holds.
All I ask of analysts is that they are fair and reasonable.
Wentz has been terrific this year. He has been accurate with his throws. He hasn’t turned the ball over. He has managed the game well, which can be especially tough for a rookie. You don’t see wasted timeouts and confused players on the field. Wentz is running the show and and getting his guys lined up where they need to be. Last week we saw him start to make plays. He ran for 10 yards on one play. He got outside the pocket and made the play to Darren Sproles for the 73-yard TD.
Wentz is playing well, rookie status aside. This is the best QB play the Eagles have had since Nick Foles in 2013, and might be better than even that. Foles got a ton of help from his supporting cast and the Chip Kelly Factor. You might have to go back to Michael Vick in 2010 to find QB play like this. While Wentz is good, let’s keep a bit of perspective. He’s not Top 5 in yards, TDs, rating, completion percentage or yards per attempt. Lions fans should be just as excited by the play of Matt Stafford as Eagles fans are with Wentz.
It feels great to finally have a young, franchise QB in place. That is the foundation of the entire organization. You either have a QB or you don’t. The Eagles do.
And right now Wentz is undefeated and has yet to throw a pick. He has made a combination of the right decisions and the right plays to get this team off to a great start. Enjoy the good times. This is the NFL and we know there will be some bad games. At some point, Wentz will throw an INT, miss a wide open receiver at a key moment or make a bonehead decision that hurts the team. That’s just reality. Joe Montana did it. Tom Brady has done it. Even Bubby Brister did it.
The naysayers will come out in force when that bad game does happen. “I told you Wentz isn’t good at _____________ .” Try not to go crazy. Wentz is a really good young player and looks like the real deal. Enjoy the stud QB. Don’t get caught up some criticism.
I bring this up because we already saw a bit of this. One of the Football Outsiders writers had some negative comments about Wentz and the Eagles offense. The Dink n’ Dunk label was thrown out there. Jimmy Bama responded in his own creative way. That led to a lot of back and forth between Eagles fans/writers and analytics people. In the end, I don’t think any opinions changed. But Jimmy did have a good time.
I have watched every play of Wentz’s young career and I can tell you he’s unlike any rookie QB I’ve ever seen. That doesn’t mean he’s the best or is headed to the Hall of Fame. It means he’s off to a great start and has a very bright future. Honestly, I’m glad we don’t know how things will turn out. The journey is more fun than the destination and we’re about to ride a really interesting wave with Wentz. We don’t know how long it will last or where it will go. It just feels like something pretty special.
In my recent PE.com piece I compared this Eagles team to some other teams. There isn’t an Eagles team that feels quite like this one. Some of you did mention the 2004 Steelers as a comparison and that is pretty good.
PIT was 6-10 in 2003. That got them high in the draft and they took Ben Roethlisberger. They added some solid free agents as well. They also added Dick LeBeau as their DC. An injury to Tommy Maddox early in the year put Big Ben on the field earlier than expected. Ben went 13-0 as a starter and the team was 15-1 overall. They had the #1 defense in the league. You can see where there is some resemblance to this point.
At the same time, that team had Bill Cowher as coach and there was a lot of overall stability. The 2016 Eagles have a rookie HC and QB. That’s part of what makes the 3-0 start so unusual.
In the end, none of this matters. This team is creating their own story and doing a great job of that.
Posted: September 30th, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 122 Comments »
You want this game summed up pretty simply? The Eagles had more sacks than the Steelers had points. Big Ben went down 4 times and Pittsburgh could only manage to put a single field goal on the board. That is dominance.
I was nervous at first. The Steelers moved down the field with a 57-yard drive and had a FG attempt. They should have had a TD, but Markus Wheaton somehow wasn’t able to catch a pass that fell right to him. Bennie Logan penetrated and blocked the FG to keep PIT off the board. The Eagles got pressure on Big Ben on that opening series, but he was able to buy time and make plays, which is what scares you.
The next drive resulted in a punt. After that, a 61-yard drive resulted in a FG. While the Steelers did move the ball on 2 of the 3 opening drives, it took big plays on each one of them. Once the Eagles took away the big plays, the Steelers had no chance. They simply could not sustain drives.
The Eagles dominated the game up front. The Steelers have put together a good OL in recent years, but they got manhandled. The 4 sacks don’t sound like that much, but Big Ben was hit a lot and under regular pressure. Pittsburgh only ran for 29 yards. There weren’t any holes in the 1st half and then the game got out of hand in the 2nd half and they didn’t have a choice.
Because the Eagles got pressure with just their DL, they were able to keep 7 people back in coverage. That made things incredibly hard on Big Ben and his receivers. The Eagles broke up 11 passes. DBs were able to keep things in front of them and then attack the ball.
Sometimes you will see a defense get sloppy in a blowout. Jim Schwartz kept his guys focused and attacking. After a 4th down stop late in the game, you could see just how intense he is.
The game was well over at that point. But Schwartz never stops competing and that mentality has helped shape the Eagles defense this year.
I love it.
Brandon Graham continues to play at a high level. He had a sack and TFL. He recovered a fumble. He was disruptive on other plays. PIT didn’t think their RT could handle him so they chipped blocked on Graham a lot early in the game. They went max protect at times, using 2 TEs to block Graham while the 5 OL blocked the other 3 DL. Graham blew up a run to his side by getting upfield and throwing off the blocking. Bradham swept in for the TFL. Graham had chances for other sacks, but Big Ben is a hard man to bring down. Played some on the inside as well as at DE.
Connor Barwin had one of those bridesmaid games. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. He was always close, but never could seal the deal. He did have one really good moment. PIT drove into scoring range. Ben was in the pocket and looked ready to pull the trigger. Barwin was in the middle of the OL and raised his hands and jumped. Ben couldn’t throw. Cox was able to get his hands on Ben for the sack. Barwin’s only tackle came on a run play in the 1st Qtr. Split a double team and got the RB right at the LOS.
Vinny Curry only played 26 snaps. There’s no reason to over-work him with big leads and any concerns about aggravating his knee injury. Played DT and DE. Disruptive, but didn’t make any plays. Came close to a sack in the mid-3rd. Flew off the edge and beat the RT with a terrific dip. Got his hands on Ben, but wasn’t able to bring him down. Used a power move to drive the LG right back into Ben on a pass play. Marcus Smith had some good moments. Set the edge on early run and almost got a TFL for Allen. Got the LT to false start in the 3rd. Drove the LT back in the 4th and then got in on tackle of RB after short pass. These aren’t great moments, but you’re seeing progress from Smith. The coaches aren’t afraid to put him on the field, whether the 1st Qtr or the 4th. Steven Means played DE. He was credited with 1 tackle.
Fletcher Cox had a monster game. You see him play like this and understand why they paid him all that money. The stat sheet shows 5 tackles, 2 sacks and a FF. That’s impressive, but doesn’t tell the whole story. Cox lined up over RG David DeCastro a lot. He destroyed DeCastro, who was voted All Pro last year. Cox exploded off the ball and drove DeCastro backward over and over. Big Ben couldn’t step up in the pocket because Cox was right there on the way back to him. The sacks were nice plays, but there were 2 other moments that really stood out to me. Early in the game, Ben took off running. Cox was battling a double team and saw him run. He turned, chased and then tackled Ben. Later in the game, Cox stopped rushing, turned and chased after Antonio Brown. He was fast enough to get to Brown and tackle him. Wow. That combination of hustle and athleticism is what makes Cox a special player. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: September 29th, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 39 Comments »
Not everyone is in love with Carson Wentz. Some of his critics argue that he’s benefiting greatly from playing with a stout defense. The Schwartzers fly around the field, making play after play. They don’t give up points. How hard can life be for Wentz when all he has to do is put up 13 points to win a game?
There is some truth in this. Wentz hasn’t been tested. He hasn’t trailed in the 2nd half. There haven’t been any shootouts.
Yes, yes he can.
In the 1st half (when the game was actually competitive), Big Ben led 2 drives that resulted in FG attempts (no fault of his that the first FG was blocked).
Wentz’s drive chart in the 1st half:
- 7 plays, 63 yards – 3:20 – FG
- 12 plays, 82 yards – 6:06 – TD
- 10 plays, 58 yards – 5:15 – FG
- 6 plays, 21 yards – 1:06 – punt
Not one 3 & out. Wentz moved the chains every time and only failed to score at the end of the half. The Eagles defense did their job in limiting the Steelers, but Wentz and the offense played a big part as well. By staying off the field, that kept Big Ben and the boys as spectators. Antonio Brown is darn good, but he can’t catch any passes while he’s watching the Eagles offense.
Wentz is absolutely benefiting from good defense.
Too many people are failing to understand the converse is also true. The defense is benefiting from Wentz. He isn’t turning the ball over. The offense is moving the ball and scoring points. The Eagles only have 7 drives that were 3 & outs all year. They didn’t have any against the Steelers. The offense did a great job of playing keep away. That rests the defense and it also can frustrate the opposing offense.
The beauty of the Eagles right now is that this isn’t a team being led by the defense. This isn’t a team being led by Carson Wentz or the offense.
This is a team. A total team.
Offense, defense and STs all do their part to help each other. It is easier to praise the defense. We know Fletcher Cox is one of the best players in the league. We know Brandon Graham is a gifted pass rusher. We know Malcolm Jenkins is a terrific Safety. And so on.
The offense feels more like a projection. Carson Wentz looks like a stud QB. Dorial Green-Beckham is playing well so far. The O-line is better than expected. And so on.
I can see where some people are hesitant to buy in on Wentz. I can see where some people think the defense is the key to the hot start. But if you watch all 3 games closely and really examine them, you’ll see this is team football. No one player or group is carrying anyone else right now.
Just think in simplistic terms. The Eagles are #1 in scoring defense. They are #2 in scoring points. And they still have arguably the best STs in the league. This is a good team and there should be plenty of credit to go around.